The NHS Health Check programme should be extended to people from BAME backgrounds from the age of 25, MPs have said.
The recommendation forms part of a report from the Women and Equalities Committee into the inequalities laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.
The report said that ‘to tackle comorbidities, primary prevention should be prioritised’, with health checks to be extended for ‘at least the next two years’.
The recommendation to lower the age limit for health checks for BAME people was suggested to the committee by Professor Kamlesh Khunti, a current Department of Health and Social Care adviser and former lead on the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.
The committee report said: ‘Comorbidities pose a risk for BAME people to experience coronavirus more severely and, at times, with adverse health outcomes. To tackle comorbidities, primary prevention should be prioritised.’
To that effect, the MPs said: ‘We recommend that the NHS Health Check, which is currently for 40 to 70-year olds, should be extended to people from a BAME background from the age of 25 years for at least the next two years.’
The report also raised concern about the Government’s decision to abolish Public Health England, which the MPs warned ‘could result in a gap in the prevention work that is already underway’.
And they said the Government’s obesity strategy should be updated to be ‘culturally appropriate’.
The report said: ‘The Government must ensure that any work undertaken in this area is not lost when Public Health England is disbanded.’
The report also supported calls made by the BMA when it gave evidence to the enquiry, including on more detailed data collection, exploring links between ethnicity, occupation and health outcomes, as well as calling for improved support for the self-employed and those on zero-hours contracts.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul commented: ‘As the BMA has repeatedly demanded, action must be taken now to address these inequalities and prevent further harm coming to people from these communities, and we are glad that this is supported in today’s paper, with the committee taking on board a number of points we raised in our evidence.
‘Despite government reassurance that it is addressing these issues, we continue to see disproportionate rates of people from BAME backgrounds being treated for Covid-19 in intensive care, while areas with larger non-white populations continue to have higher infection rates. It is clear that the action taken to date is nowhere near enough.’